This is Cricket, a fortunate unwanted pony. He was abandoned by his owner and left to starve to death. The Ionia County Animal Shelter placed Cricket in a foster home, Foxhaven Farm, in Clarksville, MI. This photo was taken several months after Cricket became a foster pony. He is up for adoption to a qualified, responsible owner. Holding Cricket is Kaitlynn Kensington, a pre-vet student.
The horse industry currently faces skyrocketing hay prices, a sluggish market for sale horses, and dwindling revenues from horse boarding, training, and riding lessons. In the current economic climate, equine professionals and backyard horse owners, alike, struggle to survive these hard times. Unfortunately, when horse owners can no longer afford to feed or care for their horses, the animals become a problem: they become unwanted horses.
During the last five years, the downturn in the economy, coupled with the closing of America's slaughterhouses, has resulted in an alarming increase in the unwanted horse population. Established by veterinarians in 2006, The Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) addresses individual and corporate responsibility in dealing with this burgeoning problem. Coalition members advocate responsible breeding programs, low cost castration and euthanasia clinics, and funding for non-profit rescue and adoption organizations, among other solutions.
The UHC's mission statement, "to effectively reduce the number of unwanted horses in the United States, and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety and responsible care of the horse," reflects the goals of all responsible members of the horse industry. How can these goals be achieved? Where do financially strapped owners go for help? What happens to unwanted horses?
These issues will be addressed in depth in the series, The Unwanted Horse. This problem will not go away by ignoring it. Education, awareness, responsiblity, and involvement are all necessary steps to resolve this crisis. In the next installment of the series, the topic of choosing a reputable adoption/rescue organization will be addressed.